Point Guard: C-
Before you say that I'm giving Ben Murdock too harsh of a grade for a game that I was not able to watch, please let me explain myself. Murdock led the team in turnovers (three) and only had two assists. He also only contributed two points on 0-2 shooting from the field. His only two points came from the free-throw line with 3:31 remaining in the game when the Falcons were down 15 points, and one of his two assists came with 22 seconds remaining after the outcome of the game was already determined. After speaking to previous guards Mike Rose and Austin Ainge, I know that the Clune Arena is a very difficult place to play because it feels like all their fans are right on top of you, but these statistics are not very good. As I mentioned above, I did not have an opportunity to watch the game, so I don't know if Murdock played better than his stats showed or even played worse than the box score and the radio depicted, but he certainly has had a better games recently.
Shooting Guard: B
I love the fact that Jimmer Fredette got 24 minutes and more minutes than Sam Burgess. Don't get me wrong, I love the way that Burgess plays and I want him on the court as much as possible. What I'm trying to say is that Fredette is finally getting the minutes that I have felt he has deserved all year long. During Fredette 's 24 minutes Wednesday, he was one of three Cougars in double digits with 10 points. He was 2-6 from the three-point line and he also had two assists. Not only has Fredette proved that he can shoot the ball and score, but he has also proved that he can get his teammates involved (he had six assists against New Mexico last Saturday). He has improved the bench with his play of late and the more consistent minutes he gets, the more consistent play we'll get out of him.
Burgess only played 19 minutes, as Lee Cummard was tremendous, so Fredette took some of Burgess' minutes away from him. Burgess ended with three points on a lone three-pointer. He also had a pair of assists during his contribution.
Small Forward: A
Cummard owned up to his new nickname 'Consistent Cummard' Wednesday, as he stepped up for the sick Trent Plaisted offensively and poured in 21 points for the Cougars. He was 8-12 from the field and 3-6 from beyond the arc. Down the stretch from the 16:26 mark to the 6:26 mark, Jonathon Tavernari and Cummard were the only two Cougars to score. The two combined for 20 points. Once again, Cummard proved that he can make his teammates around him better, as he dished out five assists. He also pulled down eight rebounds to help out on the boards for the Cougars.
Power Forward: A-
Tavernari has turned it on the past two games since struggling for a three game span. He ended the game Wednesday as the game-high leader in points (22). He shot the ball well down the stretch for the Cougars. During that 10 minute span where he and Cummard scored 20 points for the Cougars, Tavernari was 4-6 which included two three-pointers. One stat that stood out to me was Tavernari's three steals, showing to me that he was active on the defensive end as well as the offensive end. He shot the ball 15 times and knocked down eight of them. He also was 4-11 from beyond the arc for the Cougars. With Plaisted having flu-like symptoms, Tavernari stepped up and answered the call that BYU needed with his 22 points.
A guy that plays despite having flu-like symptoms gets my respect every time, especially when he's as valuable to the BYU squad as Plaisted is. In the pre-game talk, Greg Wrubell reported that it was possible that Plaisted might not be playing Wednesday. The performance that Plaisted put forth for being sick was fantastic. He pulled down a game-high nine rebounds and scored nine points. This all happened in only 19 minutes of play. Had Plaisted played his regular 27 minutes, he likely would've had another double-double for the Cougars. I have to give him great respect for playing through this sickness and being a productive player at that.
Coach Rose took his Cougars into one of the hardest places for any MWC team to play and won for the second consecutive year in a row. This is an accomplishment that must be recognized. One must remember that last year, Air Force had was tied with the Cougars for the longest home winning streak in the country before the Cougars went in and beat them to basically secure the MWC regular-season crown. This year, Air Force has been tough at home as well, as the Falcons are 9-2 with their only other home loss coming from their former coach and the Colorado Buffaloes. The Falcons even knocked off a very good UNLV team earlier in Mountain West play at Clune Arena. This win is certainly something that Cougar fans should be proud of and something Coach Rose needs to be recognized for.
Fredette's contributions have continually become more of a factor in each BYU game, and this was shown again Wednesday. Coming off the bench, Fredette had 10 points and two assists. With Plaisted being sick, Chris Collinsworth and Chris Miles gave the Cougars some good minutes off the bench. Michael Loyd also gave Murdock a much needed breather and contributed with an assist and a rebound in his six minutes of play.
Next Up: BYU @ Wyoming Cowboys (2-5 in MWC play) at 2 pm MST on the MTN
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